Thursday, 26 August 2010

First steps

Date: Roughly March 2009; Location: Old Trafford, Manchester

Anja and I are thinking about what we need to get organised in order to move to Peru. We want to set up a conservation or research centre that concentrates on protecting threatened forests along the interoceanic highway. We are worried about the investment needed to become legally established - the "Carnet de Extranjeria" - US$25, 000.

We receive an email from my parents, Chris and Elaine. They have been looking for retirement options in the Karoo. They are asking our opinion on a 2,300 ha farm bordering the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area or should they buy something smaller. We chat. Its decided. We will head there and help out and do what we wanted to do in Peru, in Karoo.

Its an emotional time - I had never thought I would head back to South Africa, country of my upbringing. We start a busy period sorting out visas, passports, paperwork, trying to wrap up contracts, studies, thesis writing. Its difficult.

We arrive in October 2009. Chris and Elaine have been there for six months, surviving wind, snow and encounters with cobras and honey badgers. Anja and I love it. Its a different world to the Rainforests of Peru. But we won't be foreigners and we can still do what we wanted - help conserve some of the planets biodiversity.

After a final field stint in Peru from November to January 2010, we head back to South Africa, and lots of work. There is lots to do - fixing and furnishing the house. I spend part of my days trying to write the PhD and part of the days on the Kubota (little tractor), trying to fix roads. We have a couple of volunteers come along and stay with us who help us clean up exotic sisal, cactus, and black wattle. We start our veggie garden.

End of May 2010, we test out our rooms by inviting friends we have not seen for years. They house survives, everyone is happy. We are happy. Our first paying guests, members of the South African Mountain Club, arrive in June. Despite our remote location, it looks like this might actually work.

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